Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, Oct 16 2017 08:38PM



My sincere thanks to Richard Lockwood for organising the second Society of Ancients conference of this millennium. Once again it offered a great mix of discussion, games and good companionship and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


I took the opportunity to put on the Battle of Ad Decimum (AD 533) with my 6 mm figures supplemented by Geoff Fabron’s. This all cavalry battle resulted in Belisarius taking Carthage from the Vandals with only 6000 mounted men. Belisarius left his 10,000 infantry along with his wife and baggage in his camp.


Ad Decimum is a battle I have long wanted to try out. As it was an encounter battle fought over a wide area I felt that it needed the smaller scale miniatures to do it justice and I just based managed to base my last Vandal the day before the conference.


I set the game up historically but gave the players a number of options and let them play out their roles more or less as they wished. I also added a number of Moors riding around the countryside who would shadow both armies and not attack unless they were attacked or if the Romans weakened their camp too much.


The opening moves
The opening moves

The battle opened historically with Ammatas (The Vandal King’s son) enjoying his lunch at Ad Decimum — 10 miles from Carthage — where he had been ordered to take up a blocking position. On sighting the Roman advance guard he charged forward without waiting to form up, nor waiting for his other men who were strung out in a disorderly column on the road from Carthage.


I gave the player representing Ammatas a chance of forming his men up but I weighted the dice against him and so he did as his historical counterpart had done with the same disastrous result. His Comitatus was routed and he was killed. With the reckless Ammatas out off the way, his remaining troops managed better die rolls and began to form up. This caused the Roman commander of the advance guard to prudently pull back and re-form his own men rather than pushing on to Carthage.


The Roman commanders consider their options
The Roman commanders consider their options

The Roman column advances on Ad Decimum
The Roman column advances on Ad Decimum

Meanwhile the main Roman column debouched from the camp as their Hun flank guard was pushed back in a series of aggressive attacks by Gelimer who led his men in a beeline for the centre of the field.


Gibamund's column advances
Gibamund's column advances

Gibamund — who historically led the advance of the main Vandal force coming up from the south — was delayed by a series of bad die rolls. Eventually his column came onto the table, taking up the left flank of a Vandal strike in the centre.


The Romans deployed into line to meet the Vandal attack with Belisarius leading his bucellarii against Gibamund’s household warriors. To add a little fun I gave Gibamund the option of challenging Belisarius to personal combat which he did and which Belisarius disdainfully ignored.


When the main lines clashed the results were fairly even. The Vandals managed to rout one of the Roman units of bucellarii but their right wing units were attacked from two sides and driven back shaken.


At this point I called an end to the game. Although the Vandal attack had failed to defeat the Romans, it was clear that Belisarius was not going to reach Carthage that day. Therefore I declared the result a strategic Vandal victory even if the tactical results were even or even slightly in the Romans’ favour.


The rules we used were a stripped down version of my Legio VI Constantiani which are available as a free download in the rules section of my website. I will write the game up more fully for Slingshot in the near future




By smacdowall, Nov 17 2016 05:24PM



The 6mm Pharsallus game at the Society of Ancients Battle day last spring inspired a couple of us to work on a version of my Legio VI rules to cover the late Roman period. We decided that the Catalaunian Fields (AD 451) would be a good test game — large armies, lots of cavalry and a good variety of troop types.


New Hun recruits emerging from the painting table
New Hun recruits emerging from the painting table

Legio VI Julia Augusta (covering the late Roman republic and early empire) were tweaked, merging some of the Comitatus mechanisms. Masses of Huns were painted — in the end we had over 100 of them — and various substitutions were made with Normans, Saxons and even Persians being drafted in to make up some missing figures for other units.


The Gepid contingent with Roman auxiliary cavalry filling out the ranks
The Gepid contingent with Roman auxiliary cavalry filling out the ranks

This is one of the advantages with 6mm. In larger scales, substitutions of inappropriate miniatures stand out like a sore thumb. With the smaller scale you have a bit more leeway.



Overview of the battlefield from the Montgueux ridge looking north
Overview of the battlefield from the Montgueux ridge looking north

Fighting on an 8 x 6 foot table with small figures allowed us to represent the entire battlefield with the dominating Montgueux ridge and the flat plains beyond, stretching out to the Seine river where Attila probably had his camp.


The Huns advance in wedge-shaped masses
The Huns advance in wedge-shaped masses

Advancing in three divisions — Gepids on the right, Huns in the centre and Ostrogoths on the left, Attila advanced his army to close with the Romans and Visigoths.


Initial deployment from the Roman lines looking east towards the Seine
Initial deployment from the Roman lines looking east towards the Seine

We decided to start the game after Thorismund’s Visigoths had seized the Montgueux ridge and were hidden on the high ground ready to charge down at the opportune moment (dice willing).


The battle lines close
The battle lines close

When they came into range, the Hun horse archers circled around, pouring arrows into the ranks of Romans, Alans and Visigoths opposing them. With foot archers supporting the heavy infantry, Aetius’s men were able to respond but inevitably they were out-shot by the Huns and some of the Roman and allied units began to feel the strain.


The Ostrogoths (on the right)  prepare to charge
The Ostrogoths (on the right) prepare to charge

Closing in on their Visigothic cousins, the Ostrogoths had little missile support so they did what they did best and that was to charge into close combat. The Visigoth foot and dismounted cavalry held their ground. The Ostrogoths were repulsed, wheeled around and tried again with the same result.


The Huns drive back Sangiban's Alans
The Huns drive back Sangiban's Alans

In the centre the Huns drove back the Alans, creating a hole in the allied line, separating the Roman and Visigoth contingents — just as happened historically. On Attila’s right the Gepids made some headway against the first line of Romans but were stalemated by a second line of reserves.


Thorismund's men charge down the ridge
Thorismund's men charge down the ridge

Just as the Ostrogoths were gearing up for a third charge against the Visigoths, Thorismund’s contingent came charging down the Montgueux ridge into their flank. Thanks to some brilliant dice rolling the Ostrogoths held out, even their archers managing to stand their ground despite heavy casualties. This stopped an immediate rolling up of the flank, giving just enough time for Attila to switch some Hun units from the second line of his centre to swing around to meet the new threat.


The Ostrogoths hold out despite being shaken
The Ostrogoths hold out despite being shaken

The lefthand units of the Ostrogothic command were pretty shaken even if they had been able wit withstand the initial Visigothic charge. They could not hold out much longer. The Huns had broken through in the centre and managed to force back a number of Visigothic units after weakening them with archery and then following up with a timely charge.


Despite this success, as dusk fell, it was clear to Attila that he could not break the enemy and there was a great danger if battle continued advantage would shift to the enemy. Therefore he ordered a controlled withdrawal back to his camp, knowing that the Romans and Visigoths were in no condition to pursue.


So it was a draw, with advantage to the Huns. Aetius’s army had suffered far higher casualties and although the Romans/Visigoths had managed to hold their line they would not have been able to prevent Attila from achieving a clean break.


Legio VI Constantiani - rules for 6mm miniatures, are available as a free download from my website here.





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